Don’t Stay In School?

This weekend, I stumbled upon a YouTube video so articulately titled, “Don’t Stay in School”.

At first watch, I was inclined to dismiss it as a silly creation, but the song tossed around in my head the entire day.  I realized: I can relate to this. Yes, everything he is saying makes so much sense! Or does it?

“If you can’t explain why a subject is applicable to most people’s lives, that subject should not be mandatory…Nobody should be forced to learn something that isn’t practically useful.”

Yes, but how can anyone possibly know what pieces of information will be applicable to the rest of their lives in high school? How many of us actually knew what we wanted to become in high school?

“Introduce those topics, yes.” But all of high school IS introducing various topics. The basics of mathematics, science, english, and history – principles that changed the world and have led us to where we are right now – are taught, and we can choose what we like and continue on with it.

The “practical information” mentioned in the video – first aid, human rights, current events, financial information – are concepts that do not require years of study to understand; in fact, we learn most of them even through experience and exposure to the world.

However, algebra, geometry, and calculus cannot be learned so quickly – they require years of study and building upon concepts. The history of the human race – essential in learning from our past mistakes and successes – cannot be “introduced” so quickly. The biology of how our body works and the chemistry of the world around us took centuries to understand and cannot be introduced so lightly, either.

That said, yes, it is true that not everyone will find these topics useful in later life. But how will you know that you won’t use this, don’t like that or don’t want to learn about this until after you know about it? I’ve personally changed my career plans several times after taking certain classes, even if I did not find those topics “useful” or “practical” in the beginning. If we all stopped learning things we don’t find practical or useful, humankind would never progress.

All being said, I am not saying that there is no problem in our educational system. Certainly, real life skills are not emphasized as much, but all of what we learn is not impractical “trivia”,  no matter how useless it may appear.



Are you REALLY bad at math?

“I’m bad at math.”
“I’m just not a math person.”
I’ve heard these words floating around too much. And I’ve joined in, too – “I suck at math.”

But is math really such a matter of talent and inherent ability?
In “The Myth of ‘I’m Bad at Math'”, Miles Kimball and Noah Smith contend that math skills are truly a product of hard work and preparation. However, more and more high schoolers are sticking to an “entity orientation” – the notion that either you are smart and good at math, or you’re not. And this leads to a vicious cycle.

Because when you believe that success can only be attained by natural aptitude, you stop trying. And when you stop trying, you fall further and further behind. And when you don’t understand something, you don’t like it.
“I hate math.”

The fact of the matter is, you’re probably not bad at math. You’ve just stopped trying. As Kim Dale so eloquently puts it in her article, “Instead of saying “I’m bad at math” tell the truth: I didn’t like math, so I quit trying to learn it.”

I can guarantee you that most of the people around you who are supposedly good at math got there through hard work and preparation; in fact, I’m one of those people. No freaking doubt there are many people much better at math than me, but I’m not BAD at math.

So if you feel like you suck at math, don’t despair. Get help when you need it and please, please don’t fall behind; it’ll be harder and harder to catch up. And if you’re already behind, it’s never too late to start catching up! Never, ever give up, because when you’ve given up on understanding math, it’s 100% certain that you won’t be good at it.

And if you’re good at math, don’t discount it. You are where you are because of work or aptitude or a combination of both, and you should be proud of yourself.